To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Netflix is trying to resuscitate the rom-com. I remain unconverted. How does their latest attempt fare?

Lara Jane is about to be a junior in high school. Her older sister Margot has just left for college in Scotland, leaving behind a huge gap – a gap only grown wider because she broke up with her boyfriend Josh, literally the boy next door, before leaving, and he was an every day presence in their home – not least of all because he was Lara Jane’s friend and secret crush first. With Margot gone, it’s just Lara Jane and little sister Kitty, who isn’t afraid to call out her sister for being super lame and not having any weekend plans of her own. Their mother is dead so it’s just them and their dad.

But then something weird happens. Lara Jane’s old, secret crushes all receive letters MV5BYWNhOTJiMzYtNmY5NS00ZDNkLTg4NjUtNTRhNzRkODg5MTQ4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTk5MTc3MTc@._V1_from her. Letters that she wrote eons ago when the crushes were new and exciting but never, EVER, intended to send. Josh receives one, and so does Peter, Lara Jane’s first kiss but current boyfriend of her arch-enemy. Ah, high school. But she’s so desperate to avoid Josh that she consents to have a fake relationship with Peter in order to divert attention. It’s the kind of plan that can only seem reasonable to a 16 year old.

Lana Condor is all kinds of adorable as Lara Jane. She’s sweet and charming and nearly everything you’d want in a romantic lead in 2018 (dorky, smart, independent). Is adorkable a thing? It should be. Lara Jane is it. But just as 2018 demands a new kind of romantic lead, it also needs a new kind of boyfriend. No more brooding, distant, too-cool-to-give-a-shit guys. Peter Kavinsky is not just the floppy-haired, Jeep-driving boyfriend you want, he’s the kind of teddy bear you deserve – kind and thoughtful and loving. He puts more work into a fake relationship than every mopey 80s hunk or neurotic 90s hearthrob combined. 2018’s boyfriend ideal is in touch with his feelings, and he just wants you to be happy.

The movie takes no risks and offers no surprises. The two blandly handsome possible love interests, played by Noah Centineo and Israel Broussard, look similar enough that Sean couldn’t tell them apart. Sean is no teenage girl. Teenage girls, I bet, will have no problem choosing which one to swoon over (and apparently there IS a right answer). For me, this movie felt very Disney channel, and its constant 16 Candles references didn’t really earn it any favourable comparisons (in fact, it made Sean mourn some distinct missed opportunities). To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is not a rom-com for old ladies like me. It’s innocent in a lot of ways, but with a 2018 flavour that’s still alien to me. But I have no doubt it will find its audience – it’s just not going to be anyone born in the previous century, and not even John Corbett (no longer the leading man, relegated strictly to dad status) can change that.

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22 thoughts on “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

  1. raistlin0903

    Hmmm….I saw a review of this one over on another blog and she was very enthusiastic over this one. But this does seem to be a movie aimed at teenagers, that’s for sure. Oh wel…guess I am really getting too old for this……πŸ˜‚

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    1. Jay Post author

      I’m not always comfortable with rom-coms, especially ones that don’t really aim to be anything more, so I’m not really the target audience. And my memory is foggy, but I don’t think I was ever a teenage girl.

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  2. Wendell W Ottley

    Watched this one with my daughter. She loved it. I didn’t hate it; thought it was cute. It was nothing more than that, though. As you said, “The movie takes no risks and offers no surprises.”

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    1. Jay Post author

      Well I’d say in this case, the answer is both 5, and also none, because you’re right, they are crushes at most. But who would teenagers be without over-dramatizing everything?

      Liked by 1 person

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    2. Widdershins

      A much better movie would’ve been an 80 year old great-grandma kicking the bucket and leaving all these videos to her lifetime’s worth of paramours that her grand-daughter must deliver, in person, in order to inherit great-grandma’s fortune. πŸ™‚

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  3. Pingback: Crazy Rich Asians | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

  4. moviemavengal

    I am a sucker for the fake boyfriend/fake fiance trope, and I really enjoyed this (and I was most definitely born in the last century). Lana Connor was SO adorable in this, and I think it was rare representation of half-white/half Asian heroine (plus two sisters). I am just deliriously happy that anybody is reviving the Rom Com. These new films from Netflix, plus Crazy Rich Asians have made this a good week for me. I had John Hughes movies when I was in high school, and I liked that they addressed head on that those films have some major problems viewed with modern eyes. High school kids now have Josh and Peter to drool over, where I had Jake.

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  5. Girl With The Dragon Review

    I wanted to like this movie, and I don’t mind fluffy romcoms — but I just found this movie so problematic!!! Pete played so many mind games, strung along two girls, and all the while somehow came off as this great guy! I just can’t wrap my head around why so many people loved this movie. I did enjoy the family dynamics, and Lara Jean was a great character on her own — so there was that at least

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